Data Literacy with, for, and by Youth: Exploring How Teens Co-Design After-School Programs as Sites of Critical Data Practice

Saturday, August 1, 2020 to Sunday, July 31, 2022
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Afterschool Programs, Library Programs
Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Museum/ISE Professionals
Computing and information science | General STEM
Pratt Institute

Youth generate data in the form of social media posts, and they are likely to understand that these data can be used by others for multiple purposes. However, they may be less likely to know that other personal data, such as records related to shopping patterns or medical visits, can also be tracked, analyzed, and used. Consequently, today's young people have a personal stake in their ability to understand and critically question multiple types of data practices. This project will advance knowledge regarding how informal educational organizations can empower young people in a data-centric world. In partnership with public libraries in New York City, Pratt Institute will develop a model for supporting critical data literacy in informal settings. Critical data literacy includes the ability to critique data practices throughout the data life cycle; to situate data within broader contexts such as cyberinfrastructures and societal trends; and to use data to answer questions and to achieve purposes that are personally meaningful and important. To develop a model of informal education that supports critical data literacy, the project team will co-design data literacy sessions with teenagers in libraries. These data literacy sessions will provide teens with opportunities to engage in critical data practices and inquiry in the context of issues they identify as being important to them. The project team will conduct research on the methods that support youths' co-design of critical data literacy programs. This project will result in a model of a youth-driven educational program that can be scaled and enacted in libraries and informal settings nationwide, with the ultimate purpose of fostering a more empowered, data-literate citizenry.

The project will recruit 25 teenagers ages 13-17, including those from underrepresented groups, to co-design and implement four to six 90-minute critical data literacy sessions in a public library. The research team will use design-based participatory research to study the process of co-design, and they will improve this co-design process with three additional cohorts of 25 teenagers each. This study will answer the following three research questions: (1) How can critical data literacy be supported within the sociohistorical context of the public library in ways that speak to young people? (2) How can the affordances of co-design scaffold meaningful informal learning about critical data literacy? (3) What do the designs and artifacts created by young people say about sustained engagement and learning with regard to facets of critical data literacy? To answer these questions, the research team will use thematic and descriptive coding to analyze data sources such as interviews and focus groups with teens and library staff, observations of critical data literacy sessions, youth-generated artifacts, and surveys with youth participants. Empirical findings will be disseminated widely through professional networks, conferences, and journals for informal educators, educational researchers, and information scientists, and the co-design model will be disseminated widely to practitioners of informal science education. This project is funded by the Advanced Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

This Pilot and Feasability Study award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Funding Program: 
Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 
Funding Amount: 

Team Members

Photo of Leanne BowlerLeanne BowlerPrincipal Investigator
Mark RosinMark RosinCo-Principal Investigator
Irene LopatovskaIrene LopatovskaCo-Principal Investigator

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